Ever tried to traverse an icy town centre in a pair of canvas tennis shoes? Then you’ll know the importance of having sneakers that are up to the task when winter takes hold. Subpar footwear will leave you cold, wet and potentially flat on your backside at this time of year, which makes it something well worth investing in. Traditionally, this has meant swapping comfortable, sporty sneakers for a pair of tough leather boots, but these days there’s another option: winter sneakers.
These souped-up sports shoes have additional features that make them better equipped for tackling wintery conditions. They could be waterproof, they might be made from durable materials like ripstop or Cordura, and they may even have special outsoles that offer increased grip on icy ground.
Thinking of adding a pair of winter sneakers to your shoe rack this season? Below you’ll find some handy info about what to look for along with our pick of the best winter sneaker models to shop.
What Makes A Good Winter Sneaker?
Bad weather leaves the ground dirty, wet and gritty. Your winter sneakers are going to be coming into contact with it a lot, so they need to have a sturdier build than your summer shoes.
A good pair of winter sneakers will have a robust outsole made from hardwearing rubber. They should also have uppers that are resistant to dirt and scuffs. For example, white suede will get dirty quickly in bad weather and wear out fast, whereas a synthetic material like ripstop in a dark hue will stand up to the elements and stay looking good for longer.
Winter sneakers don’t necessarily have to be waterproof, but if you live somewhere that’s prone to wet weather it could be a useful feature to look out for. Some brands have their own proprietary waterproof materials, but the gold standard is Gore-Tex.
The technology behind it allows water vapour to escape from within while blocking water droplets from entering from outside. This means it can protect the wearer from rain while still being relatively breathable.
Of course, a waterproof sneaker is never going to be as breathable as the non-waterproof alternative, so that’s something worth bearing in mind if you naturally run hot.
The chances of taking a tumble increase significantly when it’s wet and icy outside. This is why most winter sneakers come equipped with grippy, lugged soles for increased traction on slippery surfaces.
Some brands (particularly outdoor brands) opt to put performance soles from Vibram on their sneakers. This Italian brand was the first to create lugged soles and has a longstanding reputation for making the most durable and grippy soles on the market.
Chances are your winter sneakers are going to be getting a lot of wear during the cold months, which means they’ll have to slot into a lot of different outfits. With that in mind, try to pick a pair that’ll go with everything.
That’s not to say you need to be able to team them up with a tux, but they should at least be in a relatively inoffensive colour.
The Best Men’s Winter Sneaker Models
Salomon XT-6 Gore-Tex
This sporty trail runner was first released in 2012 as the French brand’s flagship ultra-distance off-road shoe. Trail running tech has moved on a fair bit since then, but the shoe was reintroduced a few years back with the intention of enticing the fashion crowd. And it worked.
Over the last few years, the XT-6 has become one of the most popular and coolest kicks in the sneaker world. The brand constantly kills it with new and exciting colour combinations that really shouldn’t work but somehow do, and now there’s a Gore-Tex version too.
The XT-6 GTX features a grippy lugged sole, a foam midsole for cushioning and durable uppers with a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane to seal out the rain and snow. Plus, it’s actually surprisingly versatile.
Hoka One One Kaha Low GTX
Hoka One One is another performance brand whose shoes have been hijacked by the fashion brigade. The French label specialises in maximalist running shoes, including trail runners and hiking footwear too.
The Kaha Low GTX is a low-top version of Hoka’s Kaha hiking boot, which is designed to be super grippy, great on rough ground, highly durable and robust, and tough enough to withstand the winter elements.
If you’re looking for something sleek and streamlined, this might not be the shoe for you, but if you’re into your ugly sneakers and need a chunky option for bad weather then look no further.
Adidas Terrex Free Hiker GTX
Terrex is the outdoor arm of German sportswear giant Adidas. It handles everything from hiking to trail running and the Free Hiker sneakerboot sits somewhere between the two. It’s lightweight, sporty and flexible, while offering excellent grip and a reasonable amount of ankle support. But the star of the show is the Gore-Tex upper, which makes the shoe immune to getting soggy in inclement weather.
This is the sort of shoe you can rely on all winter. It performs like a proper piece of technical, outdoor footwear, but has casual looks that mean it can work with everyday staples like jeans or joggers.
Arc’teryx Norvan LD 3 GTX
Canadian brand Arc’teryx has long been the preferred brand of the most demanding alpine athletes. It started life making climbing harnesses before expanding into outerwear and general outdoor equipment, and it has been responsible for game-changing innovations like the waterproof zipper.
In recent years, Arc’teryx has developed a cult following in the fashion world too. This is largely down to the label’s knack for aesthetics, and this streamlined, Gore-Tex trail runner is a prime example.
It’s packed full of tech that makes it perfect for tackling the winter – Vibram soles, lightweight materials and a bouncy INFUSE midsole to name a few – but it’s also extremely versatile from a style point of view with its uncluttered design, simple colourways and minimal branding.
Danner Trail 2650 Campo GTX
Few labels have more experience than Danner when it comes to crafting footwear for extreme conditions. The Oregonian brand has been making some of the toughest boots in the business for almost a century. It was the first to put Gore-Tex tech into a hiking boot, which was nothing short of revolutionary, and many of its heritage styles are still in production today.
It’s not all about the old classics though. The Trail 2650 Campo GTX is a modern hiking shoe that’s durable, lightweight and waterproof. It features a Gore-Tex membrane to keep the rain out and a Vibram Megagrip outsole to keep you sure footed on slippery terrain.
Reebok Club C Vibram
British brand Reebok is responsible for some of the most iconic casual sneakers of all time. King among them is the Club C.
It’s a simple flat-soled tennis shoe, which you might think wouldn’t be great for winter conditions. And you’d be right. That’s why Reebok has updated it with a super-grippy Vibram outsole, which not only holds up brilliantly in wet weather but looks great too.
Vans Sk8 Hi MTE GTX
Vans started out making flat-soled skateboard shoes for kids on the sun-drenched streets of Southern California. So they’re probably not the first brand that comes to mind when you start brainstorming winter-ready footwear. What you may not know is that Vans also caters to snowboarders who spend a lot of time trudging through slush and snow in frigid resort towns, which led the brand to give one of its bestselling styles a winter overhaul.
The Sk8 Hi MTE has the same iconic silhouette and basic design as the original, but with a few cold-weather enhancements. It has a boot-like lugged sole for grip, insulation to lock the heat in and keep the cold out, and weatherised materials to shrug the elements off. Plus, it’s available with or without Gore-Tex for total protection from the rain and snow.